This time of year I always field a lot questions from parents about sunscreen safety and how to protect their family from harmful UV rays. And rightly so -- now through August the sun's UV rays are at their strongest. Whether it's short transitions outdoors or longer periods, as long as skin is exposed, it's vulnerable to the sun's rays (especially from 10am to 2pm). Here are 5 tips that will help you and your little ones have fun in the sun while avoiding harmful burns:
1. Go for light, broad coverage. Dress little ones in breathable, yet skin-covering clothing. The more areas of skin you can cover with lightweight clothing while out in the sun the better.
2. Use a sun hat. It's not always easy to get babies and toddlers to wear hats but keep trying! Shading baby's face with a wide brimmed hat will help, especially in areas that aren't the best for sunscreen use (near eyes).
3. Go for maximum protection. Use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection with SPF of 30 to 50 on babies and kids 6 months and older, and reapply often as needed, especially when children are sweating or in contact with water. The American Academy of Pediatrics has approved the use of sunscreen on babies as young as 2 months old -- but only if no shade is available and in small areas only (hence, points #1 and #2 above!)
4. Choose sunscreen wisely. Following point #3, you want sunscreen that contains Titanum dioxide, Zinc, Avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX. Avoid sunscreens that are powder or spray form or that contain chemicals including Oxybenzone, Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), or DEET. These days there are several good "safe" options on the market such as UV Natural Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30+, Kiss My Face 100% Natural White Sun Stick, SPF 30, Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick, SPF 50, and California Baby No Fragrance Sunblock Stick, SPF 30+.
5. Take shade breaks. Kids and adults alike will benefit from periodic rests in complete shade to rest and hydrate. Sun takes a lot out of you, so if there isn't the natural share of trees, be sure to bring some shade accessories along with you (e.g., beach umbrellas).
There's no need to feel paranoid about sun exposure -- relax and enjoy the season with your kids. Just use common sense and keep an eye on how skin is looking throughout the day. If you see any sort of redness, time to take a break and get more sunscreen on!
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